‘Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.’ Genesis 1:26-27
This takes us to the very beginning of God’s original design and intention for humanity. Think about it – perfection, beauty, enjoyment and pure relationships, all without any hint of pain, sorrow or stress. To love God, to love one another and to enjoy His amazing creation, was all that was expected of Adam and Eve. But of course in Genesis 3 sin entered into the human race and paradise was lost. If you think about it, all we needed was Genesis 1 & 2 and life would be perfect. However, because of Genesis 3 we now have Genesis 4 through Revelation 22 to transform us back into Genesis 1 – the image of God (Imago Dei).
I love how the whole Bible is in harmony with a number of central themes. Truly it is a Divinely inspired revelation that is given to us as a kiss from heaven. The beginning of human existence started with a crash in our ultimate humanity. The rest of history is about God redeeming and reconciling things back to His original plan and design. Meditate on these verses: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2. Cor 3:18 “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” Philippians 3:20-21 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:28-29 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2
Here’s the just of it all, we are broken and God wants to fix us back to how He designed us – The Imago Dei. And there is an amazing process for this to take place. Of course it starts with grace lived out by faith, conversion and repentance. From there we experience the work of death of the old self and the resurrection of the new self. “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:5-11
Recently at the 1825 ladies mid-week gathering I had the honor of teaching about fatherhood and the influence of dad’s on their children’s future relationships. It has been said that “little girls grow up to marry men just like their dads, and that’s why so many mom’s cry at weddings.” As it happened as part of our discussion I asked the ladies to give me a list of qualities of what they admire in a man (e.g. humility, Godliness, a family man, good sense of humor, transparency, honesty, graciousness, etc. etc.). As you would expect, I asked who they just described – Jesus! When you really think about it, things get really simple. Whatever we do that moves us closer to who Jesus is, the more we become who God wants us to be. Whatever moves us in the other direction is taking us away from our authentic humanity. What’s more, the fruit of growing more like who we were designed to be, the more wonderful life becomes. If you want the ultimate blessings in life, let God do His work to slay the old self and to resurrect the new self that is in His likeness. It’s painful and horrible but at the same time, it’s glorious and wonderful. For His life to live, our ways need to die. The spiritual disciplines of prayer, Scripture, fastings, etc. are all part of the means of God’s grace whereby this happens. But it’s important to remember that the flesh can’t conquer the flesh. The Good News is that God doesn’t just want to make a bad person good, His intention is to make a dead person alive. Alive to all that He has for us in the life that now is and the life that is to come – the life in the Spirit. And what’s amazing about this life is that through true faith in Jesus Christ we are totally secure and that there is nothing we have done or will do that will make Him love us any less, and there is nothing additional we can do to make Him love us more. We don’t obey to be loved. We are loved so we obey. Human effort isn’t what produces Christlikenss. It is a work of grace and a work of His Spirit. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 Our part is to partake of the means by which our heart becomes fertile soil for His love to take root.
The other day at the Rock I happened to ask a number of people how they were doing. Out of seven people six of them asserted that they were just flat-out too busy. That seems to be the mantra of our era. Busy may appear to be a good thing when in reality it is stealing away our growth in Christ. It is somewhat of a paradox but in reality we must slow down to speed up the fruits of grace. And slowing down doesn’t mean taking more time off to feed our flesh. To truly slow down, means to withdraw to the place of quiet. It’s the place where God can pierce our soul and do His best work of transformation. Take some time today away from all the busy of life to slow down and listen, learn, love and laugh. Let His workmanship continue to produce His own likeness in your heart to be reflected to a needy world. It is out of our abiding in Christ that the fruit of the Spirit ripens. (John 15:1-5)
As pastors at the Rock Church we long for God’s people to be active in their faith, to be serving in ministry, sharing their faith with others, experiencing the joys of sacrifice, service and stewardship. But we also realize that these elements are not birthed out of guilt, duty, or obligation but rather from the abundance of the overflow of the heart. In the same manner, it’s our hearts desire that the Rock Church be rich in harmonious relationships abundant in the joys of love and God’s grace. As the old adage affirms, the closer we grow to God the closer we grow to each other. Lives lived within harmonious community is at the very essence of God’s created order and design for all relationships. Yet once more, to experience God’s best, people need to be transformed from the inside out. Thus the passion of the Apostle Paul’s heart for the church is evidenced in Galatians 4:19 “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you.”